A pile of paper and files
Jenny O'Malley
Thursday, July 1, 2021
7 min read

UK visas options for international graduates: The basics

We went down the UK visa rabbit hole so you don’t have to! Here are the basics of each visa route available to international grads:

 

 

THE GRADUATE ROUTE

Open for applications as of 9am on 1st July 2021, this route allows international graduates to remain in the UK for a maximum of 2 years after graduation to work or seek work, or for 3 years if you've undertaken a doctorate.

You don't need a licensed sponsor or job offer, or have to meet minimum salary requirements to apply for this route.

Requirements:

-Must apply from within the UK
-Began your studies in Autumn 2020? You had until 21 June 2021 to enter the UK and be eligible for this route
-Began your studies in January or February 2021? You must be in the UK by September 2021
-Completed a Bachelors or Postgraduate degree from a verified UK university
-Confirmation from your university that you have completed the degree
-Have a valid Student or Tier 4 visa when applying
-Must know the Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) used for your Student or Tier 4 visa application

Costs:

-£700 visa fee
-£624 health surcharge (per year)

Positives:

-Flexibility - you can change jobs throughout this period
-More time to find sponsorship from an employer if you'd like to extend your stay

Difficulties:

-This route is non-extendable - you'll still need to apply for another route once your 2-3 years is up e.g. the Skilled Worker or Startup route

 

 

THE SKILLED WORKER ROUTE

The Skilled Worker visa allows you to stay in the UK for up to 5 years before requiring an extension. You can then extend your stay continuously, as long as you still meet the requirements.

For this visa, you need to be employed in one of the eligible occupations and be working for an employer that has a Home Office sponsor license.

Requirements:

-A job offer from a licensed sponsor
-Work in one of the eligible occupations
-Have a certificate of sponsorship from your employer
-Paid a minimum of £25,600 or the market rate for the job (whichever is higher)
-Or paid a minimum of £20,480 if you meet certain criteria
-Have the required level of English

Costs:

-Application fees range from £610 to £1,408 (lower fee if your job is on the shortage occupation list)
-Health surcharge of typically £624 per year
-At least £1,270 to support yourself - this amount must be in your account for at least 28 days in a row (unless exempt)

Positives:

-If you're able to stay in the UK for 5 years, you can then apply for settled status if you meet the requirements
-You can travel abroad and return

Difficulties:

-The hard truth is that few companies (especially smaller/startup businesses) may be inclined to sponsor an international when they could hire UK or settled-status applicants instead (no matter how talented you certainly are!)
-Employers offering less than £20,480 per annum or that recruit below the *RQF3 skill level have no standard route they can follow to employ you
*Below RQF3 jobs are, for example, carers and day care assistants

 

 

YOUTH MOBILITY SCHEME VISA (T5)

This scheme allows roughly 20,000 people aged 18 to 30 to come to the UK for work and travel yearly.

You're able to stay in the UK for a maximum of 2 years.

Requirements:

-Aged 18 to 30
-Must be from Australia, Canada, Monaco, New Zealand, or San Marino
-Or you must be selected from the Youth Mobility Scheme ballot if you're from Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, or Taiwan
-Or be a British overseas citizen, British overseas territories citizen, or British national (overseas)

Costs:

-£244 application fee
-£624 health surcharge (per year)
-£2,530 in your bank account for at least 28 days in a row

Positives:

-You can work in most jobs
-You can be self-employed and set up a company

Difficulties:

-Non-extendable - you can only use this scheme once
-You can't get public funds
-You can't work as a professional sportsperson
-You can't apply if you have children under the age of 18 living with you or children you are financially responsible for

 

 

INTRA-COMPANY GRADUATE TRAINEE ROUTE

The graduate trainee route allows your employer to post you in the UK for a managerial or specialist role. The length of your stay is either the time stated on your certificate of sponsorship (plus 14 days), 12 months, or the amount of time that takes you to the maximum total stay allowed, whichever time is shortest.

The maximum total stay allowed is 5 years in any 6 year period.

Requirements:

-Your employer must be a Home Office approved sponsor
-Worked for your employer overseas for a minimum of 3 months
-Have a certificate of sponsorship from your employer
-Work as one of the eligible occupations
-Paid a minimum of £23,000 per annum

Costs:

-Application fee ranging from £610 to £1,408
-Healthcare surcharge of £624 per year
-£1,270 in your bank account to support yourself (unless exempt)

Positives:

-You can travel abroad and return

Difficulties:

-You can't apply for settled status
-Non-extendable - you'll need to apply again from outside of the UK
-This is a more likely scenario when working for a larger corporation than with a startup. Your best bet is to see which industries have the most multi-national companies and apply there if it interests you!
-Each time you apply for the trainee visa, the amount of time you stay in the UK adds up to the maximum total stay allowance. For example, if you previously worked in the UK on the Graduate Trainee visa for 2 years and are applying again to work here for 3 years, you have then reached the maximum total stay allowance of 5 years.

 

 

OTHER OPTIONS:

There is a medley of other visa options you can try out - make sure to research them thoroughly before you apply. 

-The Start-up Route
-The Innovator Route
-Other work visas available here

 

This is not a summative list of all the benefits, hang-ups, and requirements needed for each visa. For more info please go to https://www.ukcisa.org.uk/ and https://www.gov.uk/

 

 

Eligible for work in the UK? BrighterBox connects top grads with top startups - sign up here.
*Please note that, unfortunately, none of our clients are licensed visa sponsors.

 

 

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